Good food is everywhere in town. But since this post I write for travelers who going far outside of the city center is not always possible, all of the places can easily be found in the center so that you can walk or grab taxi. Luke Nguyen once said:
For Vienamese people, food is our life; we are forever eating, cooking and talking about food. Food is communication – food is culture.
Compared to the real foodie, I’m nothing in both food desires or understanding but through the eyes of a local who believe that food is a window to the culture, I hope you find my crash course here help:
Price: $0.5 – $1
Although you can easily find it in any Vietnamese restaurants all over the world, the best Banh Mi can only be found in the country where it comes from. Banh Mi is a Viet-style French baguette, made with a mixture of wheat and rice flour so it’s light and crispy in texture. The seller uses a pair of scissors to make a cut then pack it with cuts of roast pork, rich pate, cucumbers, pickes, chili, coriander then pour a bit of soy.
There are also some different tastes to choose, depend on which one is filled into the baguette. It can be meat balls, it can be fish paste, vegans can also have their Banh Mi too. Since coriander is not for everyone, make sure you the seller doesn’t put it into your Banh Mi if you don’t want this herb.
Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai street, District 1 (near the corner Nguyen Trai and Cach Mang Thang 8)
Open hours: From around 4:30pm – 7:30pm daily
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa (Known as “lesbian Banh Mi” by Vietnamese friends, I guess that the place is owned by a female couple)
Address: 26 Le Thi Rieng street, District 1
Price: $2 – $5
While Banh Xeo is more known than Banh Khot, I mention their names at the same time as the restaurants serve both. Those are like sister and brother. I especially love Banh Xeo not because that the food looks wonderful but also because of the name. “Xeo” means “zizzling”, the sound when the flour paste hit the hot pan with oil. How to eat it in the right way is also very interesting. You need to practice a bit until you can wrap the Banh Xeo or Banh Khot in a blanket mustard leaves and herbs in a way that it looks great. Very fun, I hope you give it a try!
Since Bourdain visited Banh Xeo 46A already, I will recommend the other places for you to try. Both places are good from my personal perspectives. The latter Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau has vegan option.
Banh Xeo 46A Dinh Cong Tru, District 1.
Opening hours: 3pm-10pm
Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau, 102 Cao Thang, District 3
Price: $1 – $1.5
As a local Vietnamese, I have to say that Banh Cuon is one of my favorite and it often jumps out of my head when thinking about what I should eat in the mornings. One thing I really love about this dish is that I can easily tell the seller to break one egg and add it onto the thin layer of rice and tapioca flour batter when she steams it. And they cook it in front of your eyes since it’s the best when served hot.
Banh Cuon, literally means “wrapped cake” is originally comes from the northern part of the country but very popular in Ho Chi Minh city. From the local market to the tightly packed alleys, I hope you keep an eye out for Banh Cuon all over the place. Steamed rice crepes filled with wood ear mushrooms and ground pork. When you order this great street food, it will come topped with lightly steamed bean sprouts, chopped basil and boiled mung bean. Lastly, every bite can be dipped into a sweet fish sauce with as much chili as you’d like to add.
Where: Banh Cuon Tay Ho 1
127 Dinh Tien Hoang street, District 1
Price: $1.5 – $2
How I love this one among the wide choices for Street Food in Ho Chi Minh city! Bun Thit Nuong can be found throughout the city and combines all of the satisfying textures you might want for lunch in one heaping bowl of food. Sour taste, sweet taste, aromatic herbs, colorful arrangement, try it and you will understand what I’m talking about.
Thịt nướng literally means baked or barbecued meat. Ordering a bowl of Bun Thit Nuong and you have a mixture of noodle, barbecued pork, crispy spring roll, fresh lettuce, herbs, pickles and cucumber. You have a separate small nuoc mam fish sauce with chili and it’s your choice to pour the sauce into the bowl then mix it all with your chopsticks before tasting or keep it separate and control the amount of sauce per bit.
Want to eat like a local like me? Since the sauce is very light, I would love to put it all into my bowl then mix it well with my magic chopsticks. There are some of Bun Thit Nuong places that I often visit but the one below is my favorite because the spring rolls remain the most satisfying. Instead of rolling them in cloudy rice paper, this vendor uses a big banh trang rice paper that has been softened. The result is a thin and crispy outside layer and extraordinary spring roll.
I’ve ordered extra every time I frequent Chi Thong. She serves a tasty dish that call Banh Mi Hap, which means steamed baguette that comes with stired beef. I don’t think that you can finish both dishes but if you go with someone else, order both then you can share.
Where: Chi Thong
195 Co Giang, District 1
Price: $2 – $3
I wish this wonderful soup from central Vietnam’s city of Hue was as popular as Pho outside the country. The two are very different soups. Bun bo Hue is made with lemongrass and chili, its broth both citrusy and strong, laden with thick cuts of meat. Paprika or anatto oil render the broth its fiery orange color, and fermented shrimp paste lends a complicated layer of taste, one my Western palate was not acquainted with before trying the soup. These ingredients have been in other dishes I’ve tasted, but for some reason, this soup from the former imperial capital of Vietnam manages to bring them together in magical ways.
Where: Bun Bo Hue Dong Ba
110A Nguyen Du, ward Ben Thanh, Disrict 1
Bun Bo Ganh
110A Ly Chinh Thang, Disrict 3
Price: $0.5 – $1
Che chuoi is a sweet banana and tapioca dessert, floating in a sea of coconut cream and topped with sesame and crushed peanuts. It is one che dessert in a long line of che options; I’ve found many friends didn’t enjoy the mung bean or black bean che treats, but all went for che chuoi like it was going out of style. A local gentelman run this stall, sometimes his son supports him with the selling. You can also pick and choose different options, including taro with coconut milk (che khoi mon). Among the choices for street food in Ho Chi Minh city, this food is listed in under usd $1 catergory.
Where: 241 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
Located right on the street, directly in front of Thien Ban Pagoda
If you read until this, I hope you have the list of street food in town that must try and the places you can go for the food hunting. More food will be updated to the list so that you have more choices when traveling to the city I treasure.
We have Saigon Street Food Tour in case you want to try the local food on back of the bikes with our #Girl Power rider team.